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Exhibition charts changes in Bampton's Market Square
Buy this photo » Bampton resident Adrian Simmonds, whose photographs feature in the exhibtion, in front of Thornberry, which stands on the site of the old Market Square Garage
BAMPTON’S Market Square has seen dramatic changes over recent decades as once-bustling shops closed and turned into homes.
But the community hub is now on the up again, with footfall boosted by the influx of tourists seeking out the locations used in scenes from ITV period drama Downton Abbey.
A new exhibition, The Changing Market Square, organised by Bampton Community Archive, takes a close look at the changes, using a host of pictures from the past.
The Market Square boasted dozens of shops and 14 pubs 50 years ago, but now there are just a handful of retailers and only four pubs.
Community Archive chairman Robin Shuckburgh said: “Bampton used to be a real centre of commerce.
“There were a great many shops of all kinds, from haberdasheries and grocers to an antiques shop and several butchers.
“It was a very, very thriving rural community but a lot of that has been lost. It has been a slow but steady demise of the retail.
“We are just about down to the minimum now, but my personal view was that it was absolutely inevitable.
“There was a time when transport was so much more difficult that people had to be self-sufficient and shop within their rural communities.
“Nowadays that doesn’t happen – most of the time people just hop in a car and go somewhere bigger. Centralisation was inevitable.”
But he added: “My feeling is that Bampton is on the turn now. This is a place that’s on the up and we have stopped that retail decline just in time, before we lost everything.”
He said the change had come partly from the energy of the community but also from the tourism generated by Downton Abbey.
People now travel from the US and Europe to see St Mary’s Church and Bampton Library, which portrays the cottage hospital in the fictional Yorkshire village of Downton.
Mr Shuckburgh said: “There’s no doubt at all that the advent of Downton Abbey has created some extra benefits for Bampton.
“If I was 25 years younger, I would be looking extremely hard right now to find retail business in Bampton to set up something for the tourists.
“We’re expecting an enormous increase in visits from America and it’s possible we could start developing a market again in the square as a result of this.”
He said his business, The Coach House bed and breakfast, had received many calls from the US, because Downton Abbey package tours are fully booked for the next year.
The exhibition features photographs recording changes in the square, taken by former shopkeeper Adrian Simmonds.
It particularly focuses on a period at the turn of the last century, when the Market Square Garage was demolished to make way for Thornberry, which provides accommodation for the over-55s. Mr Simmonds, 72, said: “Every time something happened I went out and took pictures. I went through them all and found 50 or 60 to stick up.
“I was a bit sceptical but people have enjoyed it.
“I think people are just generally interested in history – nostalgia always sells.”
He added: “It’s sad to see businesses go but these days you have got to expect it. Things are constantly changing – it’s evolution.
“But Bampton is still a bustling place. People are coming and going all the time and people like the village, because it’s a good way of life.”
Mr Simmonds was forced to close his Market Square store, which sold everything from pet food to groceries, three years ago, due to ill health.
- The exhibition runs in the Vesey Room, at Bampton Library, in Church View, until Sunday, March 24. It is open from 10am-12.30pm and 2pm-4pm, from Monday to Saturday, and 2.30pm-4.30pm on Sundays.